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Pedal to the Metal: Where's the Racing?

KevinG4
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Posted May 31, 2010 - By Kevin Kelly


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Pedal to the Metal: Where's the Racing?

Memorial Day weekend is a day to honor fallen soliders, but it's also synonymous with racing. Since 1911, the IndyCar Indianapolis 500 has been held over this holiday weekend, and in 1961 NASCAR joined it with the Coca-Cola 600. The Indianapolis 500 was actually a part of Formula One racing from 1950 to 1960, although it's currently part of the IndyCar series. Formula One is much more popular in the world of racing games, so we're using that series here. No disrespect to IndyCar fans.

Both NASCAR and Formula One enjoy huge amounts of fans ... but what's happened with the video games? Both of them have had recent gaps in their game releases, and today we take a look at the current state of games for both of these organizations. So keep reading, and race to the finish line.

Formula One

Formula One or F1 or or the FIA Formula One World Championship is run by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. The "formula" in the name refers to a set of rules that all drivers and cars must adhere to. Although Formula One didn't appear until 1947, it has its roots in the early European Grand Prix races of the 1920s and 30s. Current generation cars race at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour, and can pull up to 5 g when cornering. Formula One is meant to be the top tier and most advanced category of single-seater racing, with drivers required to hold "Super Licenses" in order to race. In contrast, the IndyCar series of races feature a chassis and engine provided by one manufacturer, as opposed to Formula One, where many different manufacturers are featured.

Pedal to the Metal: Where's the Racing? Pole Position

The first game to feature Formula One style cars was Gran Trak 10 for the Atari back in 1974. Although unlicensed, it was a moderate hit that spawned many imitators. The most popular early Formula One game was Namco's Pole Position from 1982, which was praised for its then-realistic graphics. The game would bark "Prepare to qualify!" at you when you started a game, and you had to complete a qualifying lap in order to make the race at Fuji. It spawned sequels, a spinoff cartoon featuring crime fighting racers, and even a recent iPhone version.

Early Formula One games were never licensed by FIA. Partial licenses were secured from time to time to use driver likenesses, but the usage of official licenses in games didn't In fact, the first 3D licensed Formula One racer was Formula 1 from Bizarre Creations for the PlayStation and the PC in 1996. The games grew in popularity from the mid 90s, leading up to EA releasing licensed Formula One racers from 2000 to 2003, and then Sony putting out their own games from 2003 to 2006. Sony was the first to bring Formula One to current-generation consoles with Formula One Championship Edition, which achieved infamy at E3 2005 by showing the game using a PSP as a wing mirror while attached to a PS3. This feature didn't appear in the actual game.

Pedal to the Metal: Where's the Racing? Formula One Championship Edition

Codemasters currently has the F1 racing game license, and they released the F1 2009 for the Wii and PSP last year, with F1 2010 destined for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC later this year. This will mark the first appearance of Formula One racing on the Xbox 360. The 2006 to 2009 gap of no Formula One games represents the longest break in the series, meaning gaming racers weren't able to hit the accelerator for three years. F1 2009 received mixed reviews, and we'll have to wait until F1 2010 to see how the series is fairing.

NASCAR

NASCAR was founded in 1947 by Bill France Sr., and it is still family owned and operated to this day. It features stock car racing, where "stock" versions of common cars are raced around oval tracks. Originally, cars were meant to be normal everyday sedans, but today stock cars are actually highly-modified cars built especially for racing. As much as I wish, you can't just purchase a stock racer off of the manufacturing line and hit speeds of up to 200mph in traffic. NASCAR is currently the most popular motorsport in the United States, with millions of loyal fans. It brings in over three billion in licensed sales every year, and holds 17 spots on the list of top 20 single-day sporting events in the world.

Pedal to the Metal: Where's the Racing?

Richard Petty's Talledega for the Atari XL and the Commodore 64 was the first non-official NASCAR game in 1985, and there wasn't another NASCAR game until Days of Thunder (yes, based on the movie) for multiple systems, including the NES and the Game Boy in 1990. But despite its early history, NASCAR video games didn't catch on until the 1990s. In fact, the first officially licensed NASCAR game was Bill Elliot's NASCAR Challenge in 1991, which had titular racer Bill Elliot winning almost most of the races if the player didn't come in first.

Papyrus Design Group acquired a non-exclusive license in 1994 and released NASCAR Racing. It was very well-received, and saw the company dominate the racing game scene until EA started putting out their own popular titles, like the beloved NASCAR 98 and NASCAR 2000 titles. In 2003, EA entered an exclusive license period with NASCAR, releasing games from 2003 through 2008. NASCAR 09 was the last title released under that arrangement, other than 2009's cartoonish NASCAR Kart Racing for the Wii, and will be the last NASCAR game that EA produces for the near future as the license has since expired. Meaning NASCAR fans haven't had a realistic racer in their genre to play on consoles since 2008.

Pedal to the Metal: Where's the Racing?

In 2008 Motorsports Simulations launched a Windows, web-based NASCAR licensed simulator called iRacing.com. It's a subscription-based racer, and is used by racers and gamers alike, due to its realistic controls and precision track mapping. However, as of last summer, it only had 16,000 subscribers, so the future of that game as a viable racing solution is unsure. 2010 is a bleak year for NASCAR fans, with the only light at the end of the tunnel being Gran Turismo 5, which was revealed at E3 last year to have a licensed NASCAR feature. It isn't yet clear how much NASCAR will be in GT5, and hopefully we'll get more information at E3 this year.

Other than that, you'll have to download Paramount Entertainment's Days of Thunder XBLA and PSN title, featuring the voiceover stylings of Michael Rooker. Mr. Rowdy Yates himself.

What To Play Now

Although you'll have to wait months to get some official Formula One or NASCAR races into your consoles, you can play some of the recent racers that have come out in the meantime. There's a lot of fun to be had in Blur, Split/Second, and ModNation Racers. Just remember, rubbin' ain't only racing ... it's also kind of creepy. 

Pedal to the Metal: Where's the Racing?
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